Berryman (Trail) Epic

First, I’ll introduce myself. Hi, I’m MashOr or Mitch the Masher or just plain Mitch. I’ve been riding (and crashing) mountain bikes obsessively for over 20 years, building trail for almost as long, worked in various bike shops for over 10 years and generally like to tell people about whatever is going on. This past weekend was the Berryman Trail Epic or BTE, a 55 mile mountain bike race through some beautiful Ozark woodland all of which is part of the Mark Twain National Forest and I thought a few of you might wonder what it’s all about.

Epic would be how most would describe the 24 mile loop that is the Berryman Trail. While lots of you have conquered this hidden gem in the Ozarks, many haven’t taken the plunge. This loop is actually named by IMBA as an “Epic” on their blog. Each year the International Mountain Biking Association takes nominations and selects a few elite trail systems to be added to this list.

Now throw in an additional and spectacular 15 miles of the 45 mile Courtois(pronounced code-away) section of the Ozark Trail along with 16 miles of rolling gravel roads, and you truly have an epic day. Start that day with 250 other mountain bikers, and you have the BTE.

This is an event, I didn’t say race because only a handful of people are actually racing anyone but themselves and simply try to beat their time from last year or out do their friends. Also, to encourage non-racer folks to get out and enjoy this annual gathering as its promoters provide us with a clean trail, places to refuel and a great atmosphere to test ourselves in.

This year the field was stacked with top level riders, weather was perfect and the trail conditions have never been better. The Ozark Trail Association has spent countless hours re-routing the west side of Berryman that is also part of the Courtois section of the OT, bringing it up to IMBA trail construction standards and much of this work has been completed since last year’s BTE. Removed were sections of trail that followed creek beds and had developed into unsustainable washes that would rattle your teeth. Added are flowing sections of benchcut trail that crosses the same creeks as before, but on solid rock faces that will stand the test of time. The new trail adds a bit of distance to the loop meandering up and back down the valleys that the old trail passed right by. I didn’t get a chance to see the work completed at the 2011 fall Mega Event , an OTA work day, due to an early exit from the race but that’s a whole other story.

This new trail and the stellar conditions allowed a new unofficial course record of 4 hours 9 minutes to be set by Kansas native and long time pro Steve Tilford. Columbia Missouri’s Jon Schottler, the 2010 and 2009 winner and previous course record holder, took 2nd. Locals Dwayne “Smiley” Goscinski and Jim Vandeven took 3rd and 4th respectively, while Garth Prosser, a Cannondale rider and super nice guy from Columbus, Ohio took 5th. From Illinois, Andy Gibbs claimed a top ten finish, some cash and a spot on the back of the t-shirt for next year’s BTE. Official results haven’t been posted yet so I’m not sure of the other top ten placings.

So, what’s the point of this post? 1)To shed light on the vast amount of incredible trail we have available to us and the work that goes into taking care of such huge amounts of trail. There are plans to continue this work on the Berryman with a major re-route that will eliminate the only unridable section that drops you down 4 steep switch backs to Brazil Creek. The new trail will head over to hwy W on a less steep hillside and no longer will you have to cross the often deep Brazil Creek. This was tough to do in the winter time and keep dry feet. 2)To bring the BTE out to the masses that might not consider themselves racers but like a good challenge. And 3), to bore you with the first of hopefully many write-ups from this racer wanna-be, trail builder and master of mountain bike crashing.

Thanks for reading!